The central theme of our project will center upon the current state of the U.S. economy. Specifically, we are interested in the extent of respondents� knowledge about the health of the economy, attempts to reinstate progress (such as the current stimulus package), as well as asking respondents what they perceive to be the causal mechanism of the economic decline. An important figure that relates to all of these questions is President Bush. Over the past 8 years, Bush�s administration presided over an unprecedented downturn in economic growth, leading to what many describe as �the worst recession since the Great Depression�. As such, President Bush�s role in steering the economy will be a crucial element of our survey.
Our hypothesis posits that those who hold a negative view of President Bush's terms in office will blame the poor state of the economy on his administration. The independent variable is the view of President Bush�s effectiveness in office, from negative to positive. The dependent variable are the opinions respondents have about the state of the economy, measured from negative to positive on varying degrees. The central relationship between these two variables is that negativity towards President Bush (and his effectiveness in office) increases the opinion that the economy is in a poor state. As a qualifier for this relationship, many people may extrapolate their overall negative feelings about President Bush after disliking one of his policies. In addition, President Bush was criticized for having poor economic oversight and little action. Focusing on President Bush as a central theme in our survey is interesting for a number of reasons. President Bush was a polarizing figure who drew anger and blame from many people while not necessarily being at fault. Now that Bush is out of office, it will be interesting to see if people will still continue to blame the economic situation on him (and to what degree).
It is important to recognize that President Bush himself nor his administration may be the only causal reason respondents may point out which led to the current depression. Other factors may include Congress� poor choices or lack of action, banks and other lenders who made poor financing decisions, greedy individuals who took out loans they could afford, and the continued outsourcing of American jobs by large corporations.
It is our opinion that TLU is a more conservative campus than the average university. As such, this survey may show that students are not as likely to blame President Bush for the state of the economy. A limitation of this relationship is the lack of a comparison survey at an �average� or even considerably more liberal university. Judging the former President�s approval rating in the same manner as other universities might lend to better comparisons. Research could be conducted to find other university studies that measured both President Bush�s blame for the economic downturn and recent approval rating to act as a comparison group.
President Bush is important to TLU for other reasons aside from its conservative lean. As a small, private university that imposes a considerably higher tuition rate than larger universities, students at TLU may be forced to shoulder a greater financial burden. This burden can be alleviated through a number of sources (the most beneficial being scholarships and grants), however it is reasonable to estimate that many students take on considerably more student loans at TLU than a public university. As such, TLU students may be intrinsically more interested in President Bush�s policies toward education reform, tax breaks for student loans, and federal funds given to private universities. These questions also tie into students� opinions on the current stimulus bill being debated in Congress, which will also be measured in our survey.
President Bush�s decision to change federal funding rules for nonprofit organizations during his time in office may also lend a specific interest to TLU students. With this legislation, faith-based nonprofit organizations are eligible for federal funds (and essential share the same amount of funds). As a religious university with a number of school programs and student involvement, it is feasible that TLU students would stand to benefit from such legislation. Do these actions by President Bush increase his popularity among TLU students to the point that they blame him less for the country�s economic woes?